Friday, February 5, 2016

Duffy Barkley: the Third Charm

It gives me a lot of happiness to finally be able to announce that the Third book in the Tales of Uhrlin is available. This has been one long process, and I had fun working on it, but for awhile I felt like I was telling too many stories and had lost the p;ace where they could intersect. Sometimes I plan the story I tell, but this one seemed to be running ahead of me, telling me I was much too slow in following after and jotting down my notes.  Even once the story was completed, I kept making strange things happen in the book formatting so that I was being told it would need a minimum price of $72 !!! 

 Finally I got it to $15 for the paper book and $2.99 on kindle.  So this adventure begins without Duffy. He is 13 in this third book, and his sister Izzy and his Great-Aunt Peg go missing from Peg's farm. Many of the old friends show up again of course, and Uhrlin as always, has danger and adventure enough to make a tale worth telling, and worth reading.

The paperback may not be live until February 8th, which is a good day for me, my Father-In-Law has been a second Father to me for 33 years now and it is his 87th birthday.

This map was the source of my pricing headaches, as trying to have a color map made the printer think the entire book needed to be priced as if the pages were all in full color. 

SeaBee meets a tiny Hippocampus

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Another year, more writing and family

 I just signed up again to attend the South Coast Writers Conference in Gold Beach Oregon over Valentine's weekend.
Hopefully it will be a good weekend to focus on two of the most important parts of my life, my husband and my writing.  Last year when I attended it was wonderful for my writing, and motivated me to get back in and finish a book I'd been working on for a couple years now. It wasn't a great time for focusing on my husband however, as I was there, and he was flying up to Spokane Washington with the choir students who had qualified for All-Northwest.  For Valentine's Day we sent a few texts and a picture of the view from each Motel, and mine won hands down. But even with a gorgeous hot tub deck on the beach was still me, alone.  I did write a lot that weekend.

and blogged about it here

As always, I have been reading a lot, and as it is January, I completed my book a week reading challenge on Goodreads with 64 books read.  Looking back at my list, I see that I am a very unfocused reader.  I do read a lot of young adult and middle grade fiction, fantasy, stamping, Science Fiction and try to read a lot of books by other Indie Authors because I have found that there is much gold in that pile, often overlooked. I try to write reviews because reviews of my books matter a lot to me, but I refuse to write a 1 or 2 star review.  My reasoning there is that if the book isn't for me, I'm going to stop reading once I figure that out.  There are too many wonderful books which I will never be able to read, for me to give even one day to one that doesn't entertain or educate me.  Lately I have been getting emails asking me to read and review specific books, sometimes I say yes, but I'm not usually willing to take the time unless I am fascinated by the book description, and if I don't read it completely all I give is an email explaining why the book isn't for me.

I have also read mysteries, biographies, and children's books. My favorite books this year are probably the following ten. Not in any specific Order

The Rosie Effect by Graeme Samson
The Mancy Martial Artist (my Chocolate, the addicting series I can't begin to explain why I love) by     Richard Raley
Hi, Pizza Man (Picture book with my granddaughter is so much fun) by Virginia Walter
The Boy Who Harnessed The Wind by William Kamkwamba
Floor 21by Jason Luthor
Touching Spirit Bear by Ben Mikaelsen
The Severed Earth by Chris Presta-Valachovic
Grave Beginnings by R.R. Virdi
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
Division by Lee S. Hawke

and then the books I read by Tana French, John Scalzi,

The cover of the book I'm editing at the moment, book 3 in the Tales of Uhrlin, about a boy with Cerebral Palsy,  9 year old Duffy Barkley (now 13) and his adventures after surviving a school shooting and ending up in a portal world.
Two of the real life wonders that make being me as important as writing right now.  I love my Granddaughter, and have a grandson on the way, and I adore my brothers, my sons and that husband I've been with for 34 years

and my kid's picture books

I hope 2016 is off and giving you much to enjoy, challenges and people to love.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Winning My 8th NaNoWriMo (But still only have 5 books)

Success!  I am delighted to say that I have finished the first draft of the Third Book of the Tales of Uhrlin.  Duffy Barkley doesn't get to be the star of the show as much in this book, but I had so much fun when it finally started coming together.

trying to remain organized
 When I tried to finish this book in November of 2012, I had written the two earlier Duffy Barkley books. They were different though. In spite of being started in a NaNoWriMo push, they really had been developing over several years of playing with my sons and their friends. This third book was the first attempt when my boys were men, and I had lost the companionship of the children who inspired it. Having seen them graduate from High School, I was proud of them, but uninspired to keep developing this fantasy world without being able to bounce ideas of them and have them say, "What if, this happens?"  Plus those first two books are complicated.  There are two worlds, a timeline that moves back and forth through time, characters and more characters and as the years passed, my brain struggled to hold on to the little details that help with continuity.  I know there are programs to help writers build complicated worlds and keep track of the various threads, but what worked, finally for me, was keeping a word document with my notes, a draft post from this blog with every story line color coded so I could see who had been neglected too long, and an open office file to write the actual book.  So I tried to write this in 2012, and in summer and again. There was always something jangling in my brain, tangling the threads and making me have questions I didn't know the answer to, but this time, it was like all that time had been brewing the ingredients, and aging them and when I sat down this month, my fingers raced to get where they already knew they were going.  I have to edit, re-write, and edit again, so I'm not sure when the final product will be available. But I already love this book.  Finally.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Here we go a NaNoing

 Once agin it is November and writing is something I don't have to do alone and chained to my desk in the dark after the rest of the family is asleep.  Every November this group of introverted, lonely people suddenly turn all social networky and both incredibly supportive and crazily competitive as some try to start a new novel and finish it in one month, and some merely try to do the same 50,000 words in one day. Um yeah, that is NOT me.

 This year I am having fun, adding to the third book in my Duffy Barkley series, which was already at 70,000 words. So if I actually finish it, which is my plan, I will use the extra word count to get back into my second Double Time Novel and revisit Pompeii, but Im not sure. In preparation for November, I reread what I have on that book.  I liked it, a lot, but it made me sob.
 So I'm not sobbing yet, I'm spending my time, walking the deck of a ship, exploring an Island and traveling with SeaMonsters.  If it wasn't for missing family members and broken bones and a great bloody plague, life would be good there.

 I got lucky enough to be able to go to sea on The Lady Washington, google her, she is lovely, so my ship detail is well researched, including exactly why you don't actually puke over the railing.
 If you are Nanoing too, best wishes.  If not but you are curious, there is a less intense but still fun option called CampNaNoWriMo in the summer, or um, winter for you Southern Hemisphere writers. If you are curious what I'm writing, here follows an unedited excerpt

On board the ship, the air was thick with tension. The Captain of the Vessel was swiftly calling orders, which his crew repeated back to him before calling, “Sir, Yes Sir!”
He had their attention before the landing party stepped on deck, but every detail was always double and triple checked before a move was made.
Captain on Board,” was called and acknowledged.
All Hands” summoned everyone to gather around although they were already there, and they echoed back.
All hands, Aye,” and then went silent and listening.

Questions burned in their eyes but they were too well trained to ask them and he was too focused on what needed done immediately to deal with them.
This woman to the Captain's Cabin with a guard.”
With a guard, Aye” and so it was understood that while she was to be given comfort rather than tossed into a damp dark holding brig, she was not to be trusted.

Medic. To me.”
Medic reporting, Aye” and a team stepped forward quickly to assess the situation and transfer Captain Rockwell to their care. The injured man was lifted to the deck of the ship from the small boat and stood on his own two feet, but was obviously unable to straighten, or to stay upright without support from the young man beneath one of his arms. The medic team lifted the injured man and carried him to a small cabin. They apologized for causing him pain, but although he was sweating from it, he made no complaint. The young man with him followed anxiously on their heels. Before the Dr. could even arrive to begin his assessment the ship's Captain stepped into the room, intent on judging for himself if this man was a threat to his ship.

The fact that there were two captains in the cabin suddenly made it seem like an even smaller cabin. They locked eyes and they stared at each other with suspicion that soon turned to the respect of men who took each others measure and instantly knew they could be friends. Captain Rockwell started to hold out a hand but nearly doubled over in pain when he moved his arm away from being pressed tightly to his stomach. The men who helped support him were quickly waved toward the row of cots.
The sailors gently eased him down onto a narrow bed and the Dr. came hurrying into the room, drying his hands and already glancing around the room, assessing the patient and his supplies. As he began giving orders the Captain got a chair for the younger man and set it in a corner where he would be able to watch his father without being in the Dr.'s way. Then the Captain slipped from the room to check on the prisoner.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Writing and the real world, what impact and responsibility do we have?

Yesterday was a beautiful fall day.  I was going about my life just as most of the students and Umpqua Community College were going about theirs.  Rose burg is a lovely town only about three hours from my home, and one of the places that my husband and his High School Music students have visited over the years. It feels like part of the neighborhood.  To suddenly be hearing the news of another school shooting was heartbreaking, but sadly unsurprising. 

Really, everytime we hear about this type of event, it is disgusting how quickly fingers start pointing to assign blame.  But in our inability to be surprised anymore, there is the hopeless feeling of helplessness.  Trying to place blame at least implies that we can stop this pattern if we can only figure out why.

I know the gun control, and the need more gun arguments. I know the blame the violent practice kids get in role playing being the shooter in video games.  I know the suggestion that the idea comes from the movies, media and books that repeatedly tell the stories of violence over almost any other newsworthy choice.

What I don't know is the answer
Yet I feel some of the questions directed my way
because in a book I wrote with a 9 year old protagonist, I have a school shooting.
It is a mildly described event in my opinion, and I don't think it glorifies it. I certainly never imagined my readers sympathizing with the shooter, but I'm learning that some of them do.  And I have him filled with confused emotions and hopelessness, because I can't imagine ever being able to do what he does unless I had no hope.

The shooting is only a small part of the story, but once I began being invited into schools to talk about it, it was a section I never read aloud, but explain in simple summary, "Duffy's sister is injured in a school shooting, and . . ."  but if I am uncomfortable reading it to a class, maybe a couple reviews have sometime to do with that.  One says "this book was too harsh and emotional and real for me too finish" and another, 1-star review says, "10yo brings rifle to school, killing or wounding several children including Duffy's little sister. Grief stricken, Duffy has a psychotic break..." and that is that entire review.

So what is an author's responsibility in describing actions that may inspire copycat behaviors?  Do the books convince people that behavior is ok?  should we never write about things that make us uncomfortable or fearful?

I don't think so.  I think they might help us cope with it if it does happen to us, and it might help us realize the consequences before we ever have to try it for ourselves.  I think the stories, in most people can teach empathy and make us less likely to think hurting others is ok.

But like I said, I don't know.  I don't think my little books will ever have the reach or power to make a huge impact, but if they make one bullied kid realize that living a good life is the best revenge, maybe they do have some value in this world.

at least one reviewer thought so, "I thoroughly enjoyed this inventive book, which is sad, funny, touching and full of surprises. I loved the characters, especially Duffy, the parallel universe of Uhrlin complete with its own mythology, and the subtle messages about bullying and belonging. It is one of the few books I've read that are written from the point of view of a disabled child. It does a great job of making this point of view accessible and understandable to others. At the same time, it underlines the fact that everyone is in some way a 'freak', with his or her own unique way of looking at things. Everyone is lovable and worth making an effort to understand. It is a powerful message, and one that the world really needs to hear.

A wish for peace and love in our country and world.  Healing and love to the Students and staff at Umpqua Community College.

Monday, August 24, 2015

About to Erupt

Mt Mcloughlin Oregon
On August 24, in the year 79 AD, Mt. Vesuvius awoke and the town of Pompeii died.  It wasn't the first time it erupted and surely won't be the last.

Today marks that anniversary and once again I am sitting at my computer, writing on the second book in my middle grade novel series with a historical, time twist, Double Time: About to Erupt will tell the story of a boy and his brother living in Pompeii in the months before the eruption.  It will also tell the story of a boy and his brother, living in Portland, Oregon in the months leading up to Mt. St. Helens eruption.  As in the Double Time: On the Oregon Trail book, the past and future will have a chance to intermingle and influence the fate of the stories characters.  My basic premise for this series is that there is an old Egyptian lap desk, and that as various people have owned it over its 3,000 year lifespan, if they are in similar situations, sometimes what they see when they open it is not their possessions but those of the other person.

Here is what I have for the beginning:

Chapter 1

     Thirteen year old Bryan Gregory sometimes felt like he should have been born with gills and webbed feet.  With all the rain that they got here in Oregon, he felt like the inside of his lungs had started to rust. Whatever the truth of the matter was, he was home and ill with another fever and cough and a chest congestion which had been lingering for days.  Mom had taken him to the Dr. who had prescribed antibiotics and diagnosed Bronchitis again.
     It wasn't so bad to be sick on a school day, and sleep in, and have Dad brew him a cup of hot tea with honey when he finally crawled from bed and walked out to flop on the couch with his blanket still around his shoulders. 
     It was not so fun to be inside, coughing until his ribs screamed in pain and it felt like his lungs were bing chewed into pieces by some giant mouth, clamping down on his chest with vice like jaws if he dared to try to inhale. Especially miserable to feel so bad yesterday, a Saturday when the plan had been to take his younger brother, Mark, and his best friend to go hiking in the fall beauty of the Columbia River Gorge with Mom and Dad.  No-one had gone then, hoping that another day on antibiotics and Bryan would be feeling up to going Sunday instead.
     Bryan loved to be outdoors, rain or shine. Although lately it was more, heavy rain or misty rain or light drizzle.  So he was home on the couch and the rain was pounding the roof. Mom and Dad had opted for an indoor day in Portland this Sunday.  They were taking his brother to OMSI to see a display on the very thing his class happened to be studying, prehistoric mammals. After the Science museum they were planning on going to a large, indoor fund-raising flea Market.  His parents loved to search old treasures from among other people's leftovers. He didn't mind being left out on that but he suspected that he would be on their mind and that they might end up bringing him back some kind of treat simply because they felt guilty about being out having fun while he was home sick.
     He sighed and rolled over on the couch and was almost asleep when the cough erupted from his lungs again.  It felt like a giant hand in his chest, squeezing the air from his lungs. He gasped for air and tears rolled down his cheeks as the muscles in his abdomen screamed in pain.  He tried to tighten them so the coughing couldn't do any more damage but his belly still heaved and shook like he were the earth and a terrible quake had just been unleashed along a major fault-line.
    When he woke up later that evening it was to the sound of a key in the doorknob and the chatter of his returning family.  As he had expected, they all had their hands full. There were paper bags and cardboard boxes stuffed with newspaper wrapped treasures.
     The silence of the house ended as Dad strolled over to the TV and pulled out the knob to turn it on, and then turned it to raise the volume. He clicked the large dial through the channels until he found his Sunday evening station, NBC and muttered under his breath as a news broadcast came on instead. Sunday November 4th and a story of more than 50 Americans taken hostage at an American embassy in Tehran by students was replacing the family tradition of watching the Wonderful World of Disney  while eating a “dinner” of pie or cake since their big Sunday meal was usually eaten about 2 in the afternoon after church.
     Bryan started coughing again, and Mom left the packages on the coffee table as she went to the kitchen to make him hot tea and get his medicine.
     Dad snapped the TV off in disgust. “Those hostages will be out of there and home tomorrow, why are they interrupting the regular schedule.”
      Later, after they had devoured a cherry pie and vanilla ice cream and Bryan was back on the couch,  the family decided to start unwrapping the days treasures.  Mom sat down on the floor by the coffee table and the dog crawled over and rested his head on her knee on the green shag carpeting.
     The first several things revealed as the paper was pulled away had the family laughing and Mom defending her purchase of the goofy ceramic Christmas tree and its light bright peg style decorations. There were other hand painted ceramic decorations as well and Bryan had just about drifted into a comfortable, sugar stuffed doze when Dad lifted a large rectangular package onto Bryan's lap.
     He looked up curiously and his brother Mark said, “Don't get all excited. It's nothing fun.”
     Bryan felt the weight on his lap, solid but not heavy.  He reached for the package and knocked on the surface, not a cardboard box.
     The newspaper unwrapped easily revealing a  weathered, dark wooden surface. It was not fancy but the way the smooth wood glowed in the lamplight made him have to reach out and run his fingers over the satiny surface,  It wasn't varnished, but so smooth that it still reflected light.
     The box top was smooth and sloped down toward him, but there was no hinge to lift the lid.  Instead it appeared to be a hollow block.  He looked questioningly at his Dad, who reached over and slid the lid down long two grooved tracks.  A subtle scent of cedar rose from the box and Marc mumbled about girlie perfume, but Bryan was too congested to smell anything.  Looking into the desk he saw that it was basically empty.  There were some ink stains and a couple fragments of paper but nothing else.
     “What is it?”
     “I think it is an antique writing desk.” Dad slid the lid back into place and rested his hand on the slanted surface. With this on your lap, writing could be comfortable done anywhere, but I thought it would make a good treasure chest for a teenager to keep things away from the prying eyes of younger brothers.” 
     Mark snorted in disgust.  Bryan laughed and then wished he hadn't as his protesting lungs began coughing again.

   The rented snowshoes were ugly compared to the round, woven ones in pictures of old trappers, but they were a lot of fun.  Bryan and Mark were racing each other across the snowy meadow and walking wasn't difficult.  When they had started, before they put the snowshoes on, they were wading through knee deep snow or stepping on a crusted surface that would suddenly drop them a few inches or a couple of feet and leave them sprawling face first into the drifts.  The meadow edged up on a wall of evergreen trees and their branches where sagging beneath a heavy load of snow.  Mark walked up next to a tree and poked his snowshoe pole as high up overhead as he could reach. The branches released their heavy, wet burden and an avalanche of snow hit him in the face and shoulders.  
     Bryan hooted in delight, “That was dumb, little brother.”
    The sun was brilliant as it sparkled of the snow, and as Mark shook himself clear, Bryan turned to survey the view.  It was a contrast in light and darkness.  Where the sun shone, the light reflected white and icy brightness, but the shadows of the trees, and his own shadow stretched long and black across the waves of white.
     Everything stretched to the tall mountain gleaming under its own white mantle.  “No Wonder they call Mt. St. Helens the Mt. Fuji of the west” His parents caught up with the boys there.  
     “It does look like those Japanese paintings, especially if you visualize the rolling snowdrifts as a stormy sea” His Dad agreed with his mom's earlier comment and both boys looked again at the inverted “V” of the mountain.  Mom pulled out her camera and snapped a picture of the two brothers with snow on their shoulders and snow on the shoulders of the peak rising in the distance.
     While they were taking a break, Bryan looked longingly at the Summit.  “Someday I am going to stand on the very top.”
     “And I will be right beside you!” Mark was quick to promise.
     “Well, I won't be.” Mom assured them.  My legs are starting to shake  already and there are at least another 4,000 feet of elevation gain between where we are and that peak.”
     Then, listening to her body's signals, she pulled of her gloves and pulled out a snack pouch and began to eat.  Bryan elbowed his brother and pointed at mom to remind him that they both needed to eat and drink as well.
    A short time later the gloves were back on and scarves were wrapping their wind chapped faces.  “time to get moving again,” As they started walking they came across the first other people they had seen in a couple hours. They waved as they crossed paths and kept going.  It wasn't long before they came out above the trees and turned to view the panorama.  The white everywhere about them matched the clouds on the horizon, but the blue sky above them matched the blue of rolling hills and trees below, in between there were dark grey areas of evergreen forest which matched the grey stones poking out of the snow randomly in the otherwise unbroken snow.  Blue, grey and white, and nothing else except the brightness of their own clothing.


Verus Cosmus Salvius was born on the day The Mountain shook and Nero came to perform in Naples.  His name was given to mean that the world was ordered and safe, and in his Roman family, even with the ground shaking frequently, he grew up knowing that there was little that could threaten him.  His life had felt secure even though his mother had died two years ago, when he was thirteen. Both his father and the master artisan he was apprenticed to had given him stability and confidence.  He had in turn tried to pass some of that on to his younger brother, Marcus,  who was only 4 when their mother died.
     His father set the box upon the table and gestured for him to come over.  “See This, Verus?  It is a simple box but the craftmanship is good.  I think that it will be useful to you for storing your tools in.”
     Verus glanced at his father's hands as they stroked the silky grain on the lid of the box.  He knew that his father was telling him that he was proud of his work and glad of the good reports he had heard during Verus's apprenticeship. The gift of a tool chest was simply his father's way of expressing himself as words had never come easily for the man whose own talent lay in creating great visual masterpieces.
    “Your mother was given this when we married and used it to write letters and to keep the household accounts. I thought at first to decorate the lid with a mosaic, but the wood is beautiful and I wanted you to be able to use it, as your mother did, as a smooth surface for writing.”
     His father's face pinched in sorrow and his eyes squeezed shut for a moment as thoughts of his lost wife distracted him, them he looked up at their son.  “Your mother and I loved you from the day we knew you were to be born.”
     Verus caught his breath, never before had he heard those words from his father's mouth.
    “When you leave to go to study in Naples, it is my hope that this box will contain those things which you can use to provide for yourself when I am not beside you to help. But also that it will hold a memory in your mind that you were always loved and wanted.”

I like the beginning and it isn't all I have managed, there are several chapters.  So well begun is supposed to be half done but it hasn't quite worked out that way.  Begun a couple years ago and interrupted is more how this book has gone. Still, not forgotten or abandoned and at last I'm back on track to find out who will survive the double eruption to come.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Not Needing Fertile Soil

 Sometimes, writers act like writing needs to flow in an effortless way from the fertile soil of their Muse's garden.  It is as if the only truly creative writing can be done without planting any seeds, or weeding out the imperfect attempts, or toiling under the hot sun, or fighting off the attacking locusts.
 Some of my writing has bloomed like that. Then I am as surprised by the words that flow through my fingertips onto the screen as if they really were written by Duffy Barkley and his friends, telling me as they travel through Uhrlin, what is occurring. Sometimes, I feel like Della, opening her Desk expecting to see her journal, and instead discovering one from 102 years in the future.  I love it when my characters make it easy on me.

 These last few years have not progressed like that.  I find myself on facebook, muttering apologetic words in writing groups, or at school, explaining to readers that, no, The new book isn't done yet.  I blame Writer's block.  But when I don't want to teach and I'm not motivated, I don't blame "teacher's Block."  I don't stay in bed and whimper that I have no motivation.  I get up, go to school, and act out the routine until suddenly one or more of my students inspires me.  I fake it until we all make it, and the students rarely know which days I wanted to be there, and which I dreaded.

This summer there were a lot of excuses not to write, from broken computers to long road trips, to illness and family crisis.  Life wasn't giving me a lot of nitrogen rich soil and water and sunlight.  Then I went on a small day hike. The light was orange because of forest fires burning here in the CA/OR border, it made my aching lungs spasm even more but gave me delightful pictures of the serpentine bogs where Darlingtonia grows in soil rich in metals like copper and nickel and almost without the minerals plants need. No calcium or Nitrogen.  These plants thrive because they live in symbiosis with tiny things that break down the insects they trap, and give the Darlingtonia (also known as Cobra Lily) the nutrients they need to reach their knee high beauty.

 so these little carnivores have reminded me, that it is critical to bloom where you are planted, and if you are not getting what you need, then you need to find a way to create it.  So I'm back in the game again. Writing matters to me. I love sharing my stories and the beauty I find in this world.
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